A Long Way Down DVD Review
With Fever Pitch, High Fidelity and, most successfully, About A Boy, British author Nick Hornby is no stranger to having his novels adapted for the big screen. A Long Way Down (15) is his latest novel to make the jump to the screen, and it comes with a respectable cast in tow.
What’s It About? When four strangers meet at a popular suicide spot on New Year’s Eve they talk each other out of ending their lives and instead form a surrogate family to help each other through their troubles. Pierce Brosnan stars as Martin, a disgraced television personality, Toni Collette as Maureen, a middle-aged mother of a severely disabled son, Imogen Poots as Jess, the tearaway party girl of a politician, and Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul as JJ, an American who seems reluctant to reveal his reason for being at the spot.
Verdict: First of all, this is a very loose adaptation of the book. The characters are the same, their backgrounds are the same and the concept is the same, but the narrative after the initial meeting is incredibly diluted. Of course, when an entire book is condensed into just 96 minutes of story there are always going to be parts that are missing and it will never be as deep or as long as the novel. However, A Long Way Down cuts out so many of the important plot points that the way it quickly jumps from scene to scene lacks flow and doesn’t really give you a chance to get to know the characters or make their plight seem plausible.
As for the cast, they are all strong and surprisingly fitting for Hornby’s original four characters. Brosnan adds an authoritative and respectable air to Martin and his indifference towards the other three makes for some great entertainment; Collette nails the inner torment that Maureen faces with the guilt of contemplating suicide and leaving her disabled son at times being overwhelming. Paul’s JJ is a bit of an enigma, but he plays the part well and the way his character’s story develops makes way for some great acting. All in all, it is just Poots who lets down the film as the overbearing and over-the-top Jess. But to be honest, it isn’t really Poots’ fault that Jess becomes so intolerable as the film goes on – although she is a little bit too desperate to appear outrageous and out-there as the character, it is her overexposure that makes her so annoying. Whereas in the book each character has more or less an equal amount of time devoted to their stories, here Jess appears to take over every scene – even when it isn’t supposed to be about her. To begin with, she is quite endearing and relatively enjoyable to watch, but as time goes on the enjoyment soon turns to irritation. It is a wonder the need was felt to include her to the point of overkill as it is, unfortunately, to the film’s detriment – especially when more time dedicated to JJ or Maureen would have been much more appreciated.
Final Words: It is a shame that the narrative of A Long Way Down has been so diluted for the film, as it really had potential to be a heartwarming and poignant story of love, pain, and the family you create for yourself. Aside from Jess, all the characters are strong and if they had been a little bit more well-rounded it would have made a world of difference. The cast give it their all, which makes it more watchable but, overall, A Long Way Down does not reach the potential of the original novel.
A Long Way Down is available on DVD from 28 July 2014.